19th Century Gambling & Gaming

Looking at 19th Century gambling in the United States requires an examination of the early American colonies, which had very different attitudes towards gambling. Historians have classified the early American settlers into two groups, the English who brought along the English traditions and beliefs, and the Puritans. Although the Puritans came from England, they came to the new world intending to create a “better” society and discard the values of their mother country. To them, the new world represented an opportunity for establishing a society grounded on religious Puritan values and strict Christian beliefs.

Entire colonies were established along the guidelines and beliefs of one group or another. In particular, different attitudes towards gambling were enforced. In New England and Pennsylvania, Puritan attitudes toward gaming and recreation were adopted. The Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed not only the possession of cards, dice, and gaming tables (even in private homes), but also dancing and singing. This stance was relaxed slightly over the following years so as to allow casual gaming as long as it was for “innocent and moderate recreation” and not as a trade or calling. This hostility towards the professional gambler is a common theme in the history of U.S. gambling.

In other colonies, English attitudes towards gambling and recreation prevailed. These settlers brought with them the view that gambling was a harmless diversion. In these colonies, gambling was a prevelent, popular and widely accepted activity. Legal gambling tended to be those types that were considered proper gentlemen’s diversions, such as card, dice and animal racing games. It is widely held that the appeal of gambling was heightened by the frontier spirit. The desire to explore new worlds is similar to gambling. Both rely heavily on high expectations, risk taking and opportunism.

Despite widspread acceptance, gambling began to be blamed for the problems of the colonies, in spite of the fact that lotteries were used to bail out the early colonies. All 13 original colonies established lotteries, usually more than one, to raise revenue. Playing the lottery became a civic responsibility. Proceeds helped establish some of the nation’s earliest and most prestigious universities — Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, and William & Mary. Lottery funds were also used to build churches and libraries. Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and George Washington were all prominent sponsors of specific lotteries for public works projects.

Lotteries were not the only form of gambling during this era. Wagering on horse racing was a popular form of gambling. Not surprisingly, it was not quite as organized nor as elaborate as modern horse racing. Rather, the gambling was limited to a few friendly bets between owners of horses and their partisans. It is worth noting, the very first racetrack in North America was built on Long Island in 1665.

Lotteries became an issue in the drive for independence of the colonies. The colonies protested the crown’s rules for holding lotteries. In 1769, the crown tried to prevent lotteries from occurring without its permission. Once the war of independence started, the Continental Congress voted a $10 million lottery to finance the war. The lottery had to be abandoned, however, because it was too large and the tickets could not be sold. Notable among the later lotteries was a private lottery passed by Congress in 1823 for the beautification of Washington D.C.  Unfortunately, the organizers absconded with the proceeds and the winner was never paid. Lotteries remained popular throughout the 1800’s and were commonly called “Policy Games” or “State games”

Casino gaming started slowly. Taverns and roadhouses would allow dice and card games. The relatively sparse population was a barrier to establishing exotic gaming houses. But as the population increased, by the early 1800s lavish casinos were established in more densely polupated areas of the young republic. As previously mentioned, gambling and the frontier lifestyle shared similar foundations — a spirit of adventure, opportunity, and risk taking. During the early 1800s gambling in the lower Mississippi Valley became a legitimate and organized enterprise. The Mississippi River and connected waterways were major avenues of trade for farmers and merchants and the river boats carried passengers who held significant quantities of cash and goods. The south tended to have a more open attitude towards gaming, reflecting the Spanish, French, and early Virginian traditions. New Orleans quicly became the capital for gambling in America and the birthplace of many popular old-west gambling games, including faro, brag, hazard, bluff (poker) and blackjack, each evolving from popular French, English and other European games of skill and chance that originated in the Renaissance and beyond.

Gambling establishments were started in the river towns and were popular haunts for both travelers and professional gamblers. These gamblers preyed upon these cash-laden travelers who were, “Seduced by the bright prospects of their business deals as well as by the transience of the river frontier…” These professional gamblers, also known as “sharps” or “sharpers”, generally were dishonest and often turned to confidence games, gaffed equipment and other forms of cheating to make their money.

During the 1830’s, the actions of the professional gamblers came under growing scrutiny and southern settlers turned against the professional gambler. The professional gamblers were often blamed for limiting economic growth, interfering with business, endangering the streets, committing numerous crimes, and debasing the morality of the society. Vigilantism was one method by which the anti-professional gambler sentiment manifested itself. Groups of citizens organized to push the gamblers out of the South. During the early 1800’s, gambling came under increasing attack. There was always a group opposing gambling on moral grounds. This opposition was largely based on religious beliefs.

In 1835, a vigilante group lynched five cardsharps in Mississippi. Professional gamblers moved from the town into the riverboats. Lynching proved to be a successful policy option for reducing the presence of professional gamblers in towns. In contrast to the river boat casinos of today, the old-time river boats were not floating casinos. Gambling occurred informally among the passengers, often in secret and by invitation only. The period between 1840 and 1860 represented the glory days of the flashy riverboat gambler such as that seen in the movie, Maverick. The professional gamblers benefited from the transient nature of the riverboat lifestyle. Many also moved out west to California with the Gold Rush between 1848 and 1855.

Itinerant gamblers, or “Black Legs” as they were often called, were usually more feared than respected during the Gold Rush. Used to dealing with unhappy and violent losers, they were always prepared for trouble. Most of them were highly skilled and well-paid for their efforts. Those who were not skilled or blessed with the instinct for survival did not last long in the business.

The demise of the riverboat gambler had more to do with circumstance than direct action by the people. Emergence of railroads and the outbreak of the Civil War were the precipitating factors. Travel by steamboats declined as railroads started to supplant steamboats as the favored method of transportation. Trains were more reliable and were faster than the riverboats. The Civil War interrupted virtually all river travel and abruptly diminished gambling in that area. The war also contributed to the spread of gambling in our growing nation. Boys that had been sheltered in their rural homes and small towns were exposed to gaming as a diversion. Many soldiers, from both armies, gambled matches, tobacco, rations and their meager earnings among themselves or at the opportunity, at any makeshift gambling establishment they encountered in their travels.

As the country moved westward and at the conclusion of the Civil War, the frontier spirit continued to spread. Mining booms increased the rush to the far west. Miners, lured by the promises of easy and abundant riches, personified the frontier spirit better than the sponsored and often well-outfitted explorers before them. Mining was a gamble, and risk-taking was valued for it represented an opportunity for great wealth. These were restless and ambitious people who had high expectations and the ambition to seek their fortune at any cost. Probably nowhere was this more apparent than in California. The gold rush brought a huge increase in the amount and types of gambling to California. As the Gold Rush gained momentum, San Francisco replaced New Orleans as the center for gambling in the United States. The market for gambling space was so strong that a mere canvas tent, 15 by 25 feet, cost $40,000 annually, payable in advance with gold dust. Over one hundred thriving saloons and brothels met the sailors and fortune-seeking travelers as they disembarked at the San Francisco harbor and stumbled into the infamous Barbary Coast Waterfront District.

The apex of California gambling was from 1849 to 1855. During this time, poker and blackjack were relatively obscure games. Until the late 1870’s, Faro was by far the most popular and prolific game played in old west saloons, followed by brag, monte and several dice games such as high/low (also called over & under), chuck-a-luck and grand hazard. Gambling became widespread throughout California, whether it was in Mexican towns like Monterey, mountain towns like Mariposa, or growing inland cities such as Sacramento and Dry Diggins (which later became Hangtown, and was ultimately renamed Placerville). During this period, gambling tended to be surprisingly integrated in California. Patrons included women, Hispanics, blacks, and Chinese, something unheard of in the East at that time.

By 1850, both the state and cities were licensing gambling establishments to raise money. In 1855, the small boomtown of Columbia (now a California State Historical Park) boasted having 15,000 residents with 4 banks, 4 newspapers and 40 saloons with 143 active faro banks in operation. As settlers spread beyond California, so did gambling. In general, gambling and the “wild west” were intimately linked. Gambling was especially widespread in the mining camps that multiplied as the miners spread across the west and north to the Klondike, searching for new strikes.

New laws against gamblers and gambling began to be enacted in California, as well as across the rest of the United States. The desire for respectability and a recognition of the social ills tied to gaming led to limits on legal gambling. State legislatures made most types of gambling illegal. However, the initial aim of anti-gaming laws did more to target the “professional gambler” than gaming in general. Gamblers were affiliated with municipal corruption and were blamed for the depression that was occurring at the time. Lynching of professional gamblers occurred in San Francisco in 1856, in part a result of the fight for political control of the city. As it turns out, the gamblers were strong backers of one political faction and as power changed hands, they quickly found themselves to be out of favor.

Initially, anti-gaming laws were weak and had little real effect on gambling. The statutes outlawed specific games, making the laws difficult to enforce as new and unnamed variants were used and only light penalties were provided. However, the laws were gradually strengthened. In 1860, all banking games were banned in California (Banking games are those where the player bets against the house, such as faro, blackjack, and roulette). Initially, the laws tended to focus on those who ran the games, not the players. In 1885, this was changed so that it was actually illegal to be a player. Finally in 1891, the statutes made the penalty for playing equal to the penalty for running the game. In California, where most gambling was illegal, the first slot machine was invented and premiered in San Francisco in 1895. It was not specifically outlawed in California until 1911. Gambling was legal in Nevada between 1869 and 1910. As a result, much of the gaming activity moved from California to places such as Virginia City, Nevada. Although legally protected, during this time gambling never reached the size in Nevada that it did in San Francisco.

Gambling contests that have faded into history (played faro lately?)
By Basil Nestor, author of the Unofficial Guide to Casino Gambling.

Frontier-style five-card draw (originally called “Bluff”) was once the only poker version commonly played, but now it’s essentially an obsolete contest that lives mostly in pop culture’s collective memory. Poker’s near-mythic significance in American life is the main reason why the original version is remembered and celebrated (if not regularly played). The rise and slow fade of five-card draw is just one example of a classic cycle of popularity that has functioned for as long as people have been playing games. Modern favorites like blackjack, poker, slots, and craps may seem to have been around forever, but they’re actually relatively new. Yes, they have roots and influences that stretch back to the Renaissance and beyond, but the games themselves were invented in the last two hundred years, and the versions we play today were actually developed in just the last century.

When Faro Was King..
Gambling was an entirely different experience in the 1800’s. The big game in America back then was faro. You’ve never heard of faro? Everyone played it in the Old West including Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. In fact, those famous shootists weren’t just players, they were dealers, and Earp was a faro-bank owner. The game was a source of income for him in Tombstone, Arizona. When Ike Clanton and his gang would come swaggering into the Oriental Saloon, what do you suppose they would see? Wyatt Earp sitting at his faro table.

The game vaguely resembled modern-day mini-baccarat. The dealer shuffled a single deck and placed it face up in a special shoe. Then he would pull cards off the deck in sets of two. The rank of the first revealed card in the set would be designated as a loser, the next card’s rank would be a winner (example: 9 loses, 5 wins, then 2 loses, jack wins, etc). Players did not handle the cards. They would simply bet on card ranks to win or lose; suits were irrelevant. The chosen rank would eventually appear, and that would decide the contest.

It’s not as colorful as the classic poker scene, is it? Add the fact that the first discard in each faro round was called “soda,” and the last card in the deck was called “hockelty” (or “hock”) and you can see why Hollywood filmmakers prefer to portray gunslingers competing mano-y-mano with the decidedly “rougher and tougher” five-card draw.

Nevertheless, faro was “King of the Card Games” at one time, and players respectfully nicknamed it “Bucking the Tiger.”What killed faro?
Do a little arithmetic and you’ll see that the bank had almost no edge. Doubles cost a bettor half a wager, but only on bets for that particular rank. There was also a bet paying 4:1 for players who attempted to predict the exact order of the last three cards. Overall, faro was pretty equitable. The only way to make it consistently profitable was to cheat (the concept of a “vig” had not yet been invented). Cheating-as-a-vig disappeared when the regulators moved in, and so faro went into a quick decline. There were only five faro games in Nevada by the mid 1950’s, and the last faro bank disappeared in 1985. Why didn’t casinos add a vig and try to keep faro going? It was just one of those things. People had moved on to craps and blackjack. Faro was considered old-fashioned and faded into history.
Antique Will & Fink Faro Case Counter


(Pictured Left to Right) Large 3 die “Birdcage” for Chuck-a-Luck or more likely intended for the game of Hazard. Big Six Wheel (front), Faro Case Counter (back), and two more (medium and small) 3 die “Birdcages” for Chuck-a-Luck & Hazard.
DICE GAMES:    High Dice   Over & Under   Chuck-a-Luck (Sweat)   Grand Hazard   Hazard   Craps
CARD GAMES:   Faro   Brag
Ace-Deuce-Jack    Monte Bluff (Poker) AKA: 5 Card Draw Poker

“Beat the Dealer” or “High Dice”
Beat the Dealer is a popular saloon game from the old west, as well as Mississippi Riverboats. It was also known as �High Dice� and is a quick and simple game.

It was also commonly referred to as �the bartender�s game� often used to keep bar patrons occupied while they are visiting the bar. This game is usually played with 3 to 6 players, all betting that they can �beat the dealer�. All players get their bets down by placing their chip or chip stack clearly within the pass line area in front of them.

After all the bets are in place, the dealer shakes the two dice in the shaker and rolls them into the dice tray. If the dealer�s total is 2, all players win and are paid even money (1:1). If the dealer�s total is 12, all players lose, and the dealer collects all bets. If the dealer�s total is anything other than 2 or 12, (3 through 11), he places a puck or marker on the back line of the counter in a numbered layout, to indicate his score.

Player #1, to the Dealer�s far left, then rolls the dice into the tray. If his total is higher than the dealers, he wins and is paid even money. If his total is the same as the dealers, or less, player loses, and his bet is collected. Player #2 then rolls the dice, and so on, until all players have rolled. The dealer’s advantage lies in the key rule, as stated on the layout, �The Dealer wins all ties.�

“Under & Over” (or High/Low” or “Hi & Lo” or “Lucky Number 7”)
This was a popular party game, also played in saloons of the old west. Usually it was played with three to six players. It can be played with a Dice tray and 2 dice with a shaker cup, or with a Two Die �Birdcage� (or with an Under & Over Vertical Wheel, similar to a “Big Six” wheel).

The layout design provides a fancy, decorative circular area on the players� left (Dealer�s right), where the Dice Tray or Two-Dice birdcage is positioned for play.

Players are betting on a single roll of the dice, and action is fast and easy to follow. Bets can be placed to win if dice total is �Under 7� (1 thru 6) or �Over 7� (8 thru 12)� both of these bets pay even money � or players can bet on Dice Total of exactly �7�. On this bet, odds paid are �4 for 1�, This means players chip stack and THREE EQUAL STACKS (3 -1). Players can also bet on �long shot doubles�. Long shot doubles usually paid �15 for 1�, players chip stack and 14 EQUAL STACKS (14 -1) or whatever odds are listed on the layout (which varied from dealer to dealer, some paid as high as 25 for 1 (24-1) for double ones (“Snake Eyes”) or double sixes (“Box Cars”). When betting on one of the Double Dice Combinations, Players betting Chip must be placed clearly within any of the six double areas of the laydown. PLAYER IS BETTING ON THAT EXACT DOUBLE ONLY.

Only the dealer handles the dice, the birdcage, or spins the wheel.

aka: “Sweat”, “Sweat Cloth”, “Birdcage”,”Chucker Luck”, “Chuck” (or “Big Six” or “Crown & Anchor”)

An old game originating in English pubs and called “Sweat Cloth”, it was introduced in the U.S. around 1800 and called “Sweat”. During the mid-to-late 1800’s it was commonly known as “Chucker Luck”*, then “Chuck-Luck” or simply “Chuck”. After 1900, it was commonly called “Birdcage” or “Chuck-a-Luck”.

In early versions, “Sweat” was played using a dice cup and 3 dice, which were thrown or “chucked”. The problem became the use of “loaded” (weighted) or shaped trick dice as well as accusations of trick dice throwing or other methods of cheating by operators.  By the late 1800’s, the use of a heavy welded metal birdcage device became the standard for the game, particularly in saloons and casinos, where more serious operators worked. More modern version of Chuck-A-Luck are “Big Six” (which is played with a “Dice Wheel”, pictured above) and “Crown and Anchor”, which is usually played with special suited dice, but is basically “Chuck-a-Luck” in disguise.

In the Old-West period game of “Chucker Luck”* or “Chuck”, a three-die �Birdcage� (pictured below) is used. Players place their bets in one of the 6 betting sections, numbered �1� through “6� on the felt or oil-cloth layout. After all bets are down, the bridcage is fliped several times by the dealer (or in the case of “Big Six”, the wheel is spun). When the cage stops and the dice drop (or the wheel stops), the result is displayed.

If one die shows the value bet, the player wins EVEN MONEY (1-to-1)
Two of the dice show the number bet, the player is paid DOUBLE HIS BET (2-to-1).
If “Triples� appear and it is the number bet, player wins TRIPLE HIS BET (3-to-1).
Any bets placed on numbers not shown on the displayed dice are lost.The dealer collects all losing bets first, and then pays winning bets. After paying all winning bets, the dealer declares the game �Open for the next round!� and the players place their new bets.The layout in Chuck-a-Luck is where bets are laid and which provides a fancy, decorative circular area on the player�s left (Dealer�s right), where the Cage is set in position.Only the Dealer turns the Cage. The Cage is welded closed, and Dice are not removable or changeable. Many people refer to any “Birdcage� tumbler with any number of dice as a Chuck-a-Luck Cage (pictured left). This is a true definition as long as there are THREE DICE in the Cage. Cages are also available with two of five dice, for other games, such as Hi/Lo (Under & Over), ect.

* The game is listed as “Sweat , or Chucker Luck” on page 311 of the 9th Edition of “The Modern Pocket Hoyle; Containing all the games of skill and chance as played in this country at the present time.” Published by Dick & Fitzgerald of New York in 1878. In that listing, it says, “This game is extensively played on our Western rivers, upon racefields and at all large gatherings of men.”

Grand Hazard (not to be confused with Hazard)
“Grand Hazard” was a more advanced form of Chuck-a-Luck, with a more sophisticated layout allowing for the simple 1 thru 6 “chuck bets” (across the top) paying as listed in the chuck-a-luck rules listed above as well as more complex bets with varying odds, all printed on the layout (sample pictured right). The basic equipment included the painted felt or oil cloth layout (as pictured, right) and three dice in a birdcage or more commonly loose dice and a wooden hazard chute (commonly called a horn) that tumble the dice as they fall.
The only real difference between grand hazard and chuck-a-luck is in the layout: The grand hazard layout provides spaces for wagering on high or low (“high” being 11-17 and “low” being 4-10), even or odd, triples (commonly called raffles, triplets or “trips”), “any triple” and any number the dice may total, from 4 to 17. The odds on some of the “exotic” bets varied from dealer to dealer.
One rule in particuar, that favored the house, was that a “high or low” (or even/odd, if offered) bets lost if the roll was a raffle (triplet). Also, with most dealers, to win on a raffle, you had to bet the raffle, thus there is no 3 and no 18 on the straight number bets and any bet on 6, 9, 12 and 15 and “high or low” bet only pay for a mixed roll and lose on any triple. This rule should be printed on the board or pointed out to new players and the odds (payouts) on the 6, 9, 12 and 15 should be adjusted accordingly, if that is the case.

Hazard (not to be confused with Grand Hazard)
Hazard was played with two dice and was the ancestor of the modern dice game, craps. The player (caster), calls a main (a number from 5 to 9) and then throws two dice. If he “nicks” (casts his main) he wins the stake. The caster throws out, and loses his wager, if he throws a 2 or a 3. This was known as crabs. Any other throw is his chance; he keeps throwing until the chance comes up, when he wins, or until the main comes up, when he loses. The term “crabs” is said to be to origin of the name for the game of..

Any number may play. Each person in turn may, as the shooter, toss two dice in attempting to roll a winning combination. Before the first throw the shooter puts up a stake, and the other players fade it, i.e., bet against the shooter up to the amount of the stake. The shooter must withdraw any part of his stake that is not faded. If he wins, he may continue to shoot and bet again, as much or as little as he wants; or he may give up the dice. If the shooter loses, the other players take away double the amount they faded. The other players also may bet among themselves as to whether the shooter will win or lose in the next series of throws or whether certain numbers or combinations will appear.

If the shooter throws a 7 or 11 (natural) on his first roll, he wins; if he rolls 2, 3, or 12 (craps) on the first roll, he loses. Bets are settled. The shooter keeps the dice and puts up the next bet or passes the dice to the player on his left, and the game continues. If the shooter’s first throw is 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, that number is his point, and he continues to throw until he rolls the same number again (makes his point) and wins or throws 7 (misses out, or craps out) and loses both his bet and the dice. Side bets may be laid with or against the shooter, either before he has a point (coming out) or after (will or won’t make his point).


Since the late 16th century, European-style royalty have been used on “face cards” and “French Suits” (Spade Diamond, Heart, Club) were adopted as a standard throughout much of Northern Europe, for that reason standard decks in the 18th and 19th century were commonly referred to as a “standard French deck”. Around the Turn-of-the-Century (1900), the double-sided deck with numbers in opposing corners and double sided face cards came into common use as a result of the rising popularitly of round games (such as poker). Prior to that (during the Faro heyday), standard decks were square-edged, one-sided (the royalty stood one way on the card face) and the numbered cards only showed pips, without numbers (indices) in the corners (as pictured left).
Pictured right is a deck of rare De LaRue Co. double-sided, rounded-corner playing cards made in London, England, between 1870-1880. These “Dexter” cards are an early version of indexed playing cards (numbers on the corners). As you can see, the indices are quite different from those in common use today. Indiced cards, 1880's


It is unknown if this is the Mint Saloon in Great Falls, Montana (or another Mint Saloon built in Havre, Montana in 1899), the famous Mint Saloon located at 605 Commercial Street, San Francisco, California from 1877 to 1896, another gold rush period “Mint Saloon” in the mining town of Marysville, CA or the infamous Mint Saloon located on Main Street in Wells, Nevada, which was built in 1903.

This is an intriguing game, and very simple to play. �Ace Deuce Jack� was a favorite of the riverboat hustler. The player appears to have a great advantage in this game (10 to 3 in his favor), and in fact this is not the case. Standard equipment, with the layout is a regular deck of cards (standard 52). The dealer calls out �All bets down� and players place their chips, checks or cash/coin in the betting area of the layout. They are betting to beat the dealer.

The deck is shuffled, and the dealer offers a cut to any of the players. If no player cuts, the dealer cuts. The dealer announces that �All bets stand� and then turns over the TOP THREE Cards on the deck, laying them out for all to see.

The Dealer is betting that ONE of these three cards will be and Ace, a Deuce, or a Jack. When this happens, the Dealer wins, and collects all bets. If none of these values appear in the three turned Cards, ALL PLAYERS WIN, and all players are paid EVEN MONEY.

What makes this game so appealing to the players is what was called “The Dealer�s bally-hoo”, to the effect that �You get the other ten Cards (values), and I�ll take the Ace, Deuce, and Jack.� The dealer will win this game approximately 56 percent of the time, not bad odds for the players, compared to most contemporary casino games.

If, after losing a portion of his bankroll, the player may seem to be ready to quit. The Dealer can then suggest that the player pick out �any three cards� for the Dealer to hit�(instead of the Ace, Deuce, or Jack). Dealer might say �Okay you pick �em. Tell me what three cards I have to hit, and I�ll give you the other ten.� Three Markers or Pucks are placed on the Layout back line to mark the players new selections. Play then continues as before, using the new card values. It really doesn�t matter whether it�s the Ace, Deuce, or Jack�or any three cards, the Dealer will always have the same percentage (56%) in his favor.


Brag was a very popular pre-poker gambling game. The basic game of three card Brag was one of the games described by Hoyle dates from the late eighteenth century or earlier. Faro was known as the “King of Gambling Games” and in the late 1860’s, Brag was considered the “Queen of Gambling Games”.

Three Card Brag

A standard 52 card deck is used. The cards in each suit rank in the usual order from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. The typical game was 4 to 8 players.  Because Three Card Brag is a gambling game the players must agree on the stake and have a common understanding of the rules. (Typical of any game.) It is necessary to agree:

  • the initial stake or ante – which is the amount (if any) that everyone must put into the pot before each deal;
  • the minimum and maximum initial bet – the amount that the first player bets in order to stay in the hand;
  • the limit (if any) on the amount by which the bet can be increased by each subsequent player;
  • any variations to the basic rules, such as use of wild cards.

Ranking of hands highest to lowest

Prial or Pryle 3-3-3
“Prial” – short for “pair royal” – is the name for three of a kind. The best is threes, then 3 As. 3 Ks, 3 Qs on down to 3 2s.
Running flush 3-2-A
A running flush is a set of three consecutive cards of the same suit . A run is a set of three consecutive cards of mixed suits. Although the ace is high, A-2-3 counts as a valid run  or a valid running flush if all the cards are the same suit. In fact A-2-3 is the highest run or running flush, A-K-Q of a suit is the second highest, then K-Q-J, and so on down to 4-3-2, which is the lowest. 2-A-K is not a valid run or running flush.Any running flush beats any flush.
Run 3-2-A
Flush A-K-J
. . .
Any three cards of the same suit . When comparing flushes, the highest card is compared first, then if these are equal the middle card,  etc. K-9-2 beats Q-10-5.
Pair A-A-K
two cards of equal rank. Highest ranking of the pairs wins. If these are equal the odd card determines which is higher.
High card A-K-J
Three cards that do not form any of the above combinations.

There is no order of suits, so it is possible for two hands to be equal in rank. In a contest between two equal hands the calling player (the player who paid to see the other hand) loses.

Ante and deal

Before each deal, each player must place the initial stake (ante-up) in the pot. Deal and play are clockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

If it is the first deal of the session, the dealer shuffles. For subsequent deals, the cards are only shuffled if the previous hand was “seen” and won by a prial. Otherwise, the cards from the previous hand are just added to the bottom of the pack and the dealer deals the new hands from the top, without shuffling.

The dealer deals out the cards one at a time, face down to the players, until everyone has three cards. Players may look at their own cards, or may choose not to, if they wish to play “blind”. Cards must at never be shown to any player other than the person to whom they were dealt, unless the betting ends with a “see”. In that case the cards of the two players involved (but none of the others) are exposed for everyone to see.

When the cards have been dealt, betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer. This person can ‘fold’ (throw in their cards and take no further part in the hand) or can bet any amount from the agreed minimum to the agreed maximum. If all the players except one fold, the last remaining player takes all the money in the pot, and the next hand is dealt.

If any player bets, every player after that must either fold or bet at least as much as the previous player who bet. A player may bet more than the previous player, but there may be an agreed limit to the amount by which the bet can be increased. The betting continues around the table as many times as necessary.

When there are only two players left in the game, all the others having folded, a third option becomes available. Either player can see the other. Seeing costs twice as much as the previous player’s bet. When you pay to see another player, they expose their three cards first. If your cards are better than your opponent’s, you expose your hand to prove this and win the pot. If your cards are equal to your opponent’s or worse, your opponent wins the pot – you do not have to show your cards in this case. Note that if the hands are equal, the player who paid to see loses.

As each player folds, that player’s cards are added to the bottom of the pack ready for the next deal. At the end of the betting the cards of the last player left in, or the cards of the two players involved in the see, are added to the pack in the same way.

Five Card Brag
Five cards are dealt to each player, and everyone discards two cards to make their best three card brag hand.

Monte Bank

Monte was one of the most popular card games of the early 19th Century, particularly in the Southwest and the mining camps in Northern California. The game was introduced to the U.S.in the 1840’s, near the end of the Mexican-American War and spread very quickly with the onset of the California Gold Rush. It is really very easy to learn and a relatively fast-paced game. There is a two-card version, called “Mexican Monte” and the four-card version called “Spanish Monte.” Both games are played similarly. Please don’t confuse this with “Three Card Monte,” the shell game, played by swindlers on street corners.

In the 2 and 4 card versions, the dealer uses a deck of 40 cards (leaving out the 10�s, 9�s and 8�s from a standard 52 card deck). Any number of people can play against the dealer, known as the bank or banker.

To play two-card monte; after the shuffle and a cut, the bank draws one card from the bottom and places it face up on the table. This is known as the “bottom layout.” One card is then drawn from the top of the pack and placed face up on the table for the “top layout.”

The punters (players) then place their bet on either layout (top or bottom). After all bets are placed, the pack is turned face up and the card showing on the bottom is known as the “gate” or “port” card. If the suit of this card (heart, spade, etc.) matches the top layout, the dealer pays off those bets 2 for 1. Then, if that card matches the card in the bottom layout, the dealer pays those bets 2 for 1. Any money on unmatched layout(s) is collected by the dealer. The deck is then shuffled and another round begins. To speed up the game, the dealer may shuffle and cut the deck remaining deck (or just cut the remaining deck) and continute to play a number of additional rounds before picking up the spent cards and shuffling. It is ultimately the dealers choice when he decides to shuffle. If punters don’t agree, they do not have to bet on the layouts.

To play four-card monte, the bank draws two cards each for the top and bottom layouts. In most cases this gives the punters better odds. If either card on the particular layout they bet on matches the gate card, they win their bet. If both cards on their layout are no match to the suit of the gate card, they lose their bet.

Bluff (Poker) AKA; 5 Card Draw Poker
Coming soon!

TOP 20
This webpage is not maintained for profit. Information is provided here for educational benefit and maintained for the purpose of historical preservation and reference. Please check local laws before engaging in any form of gambling or sport gaming.Return to BCVC.NET
Courtesy of the Barbary Coast Vigilance Committee (BCVC) www.BCVC.net
© 2001-2008 Websmitty.com, All Rights Reserved1
From http://www.macauonnet.com/19th-century-gambling.html

19th Century Gambling as it Flourished in America

Scandals involving the bribery of public officials by lottery operators were commonplace.

Many lotteries openly violated their charters by extending the time periods for ticket sales— thereby increasing their profits, overselling tickets, and rigging the outcome.

Scandals involving the bribery of public officials by lottery operators were commonplace. In some cases, lottery operators simply disappeared after selling their tickets.

Early in the nineteenth century, reformers and charities attributed pauperism (impoverishment) to lotteries as well as excessive alcohol consumption.

In the 1820s, an anti-lottery movement was spearheaded by the Society of Friends (Quakers), which played an important role in the disappearance of lotteries from most northern states by the 1840s.

Public disillusionment with lotteries became evident in the south as well.

By 1860, only three of the thirty-three states permitted lotteries. However, with the outbreak of the Civil War, many southern states turned to lotteries as a source of revenue for military expenditures.

In 1868, Louisiana established a lottery that lasted for twenty-five years amid recurring scandals. Anti-lottery sentiment developed again in the waning decades of the nineteenth century, fueled to a significant degree by the scandals surrounding the Louisiana lottery.

By 1900, thirty-six of the forty-five states had outright prohibitions and, in some cases, other forms of gambling.

After the Revolutionary War, gambling moved westward with the frontier.

In the 1800s, new forms of gambling and new types of gamblers appeared in the lower Mississippi Valley from St. Louis to New Orleans, casino games— faro, craps, monte, poker, and roulette— became popular.

The spread of gambling was not without its opponents, however. In 1835, outraged citizens of Vicksburg hanged five faro dealers perceived as promoting immorality.

Although the Mississippi riverboat gambler remains a popular image of this era, land-based public gambling establishments actually preceded the riverboat.

Gambling thrived in the gold-mining areas of California and sliver-mining areas of Nevada in the 1840s and 1850s.

During the 1850s, gambling also thrived in the frontier towns of Kansas City and Denver, as well as in San Francisco, where it was a major part of the fabric of social life.

Following the discovery of gold and the ensuing ‘gold rush’, commercial gambling establishments emerged throughout California. Gambling was viewed like any other business. Although commonplace throughout California, nowhere did gambling flourish as in San Francisco.

Plush multistory clubs, as well as makeshift tents, were erected as gambling centers.

Gambling was an important source of municipal revenue, and the city-licensed, regulated, and taxed these businesses.

Commercial gambling also developed in eastern and mid-western cities. Illegal numbers and policy games drew customers from the urban working class and legal gambling houses served mainly the politically powerful upper-class.

Off-track bookmaking syndicates also emerged by the 1890s. Technically operating outside the law, protection from police and political organizations.

This being said, they created complex and subtle connections among themselves, their customers, politicians and the police which redefined the context in which law enforcement occurred.

Many believe that organized crime syndicates emerged in the 1920s in response to the demand for alcohol during the decade of Prohibition. However, they made their appearance much earlier.

It was pointed out that between 1880 and 1905, gamblers and vice entrepreneurs generally exercised an influence on local political and law enforcement that has seldom been equaled since that time.